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‘Love in Shimla’ by K.J.S.Chatrath

Having visited Shimla a few years back as a tourist, I had constantly nourished a secret desire to be able to visit it again and possibly spend some time there. And when the opportunity finally came a few years back, I was extremely thrilled, notwithstanding that I was required to join the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla in the freezing first fortnight of February.


The Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla housingthe Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

I reached Shimla on a dark depressing day late in the evening after a longish bus ride from Delhi. I was driven to the Institute’s Guest where after an early dinner I fell asleep. I was woken up the next morning by the sharp sunshine which had succeeded in peneterating the glass panes of the windows and spread all over my bed. I did not need my customary cup of tea to wake me up. Quickly I moved near the windows and slid the heavy curtains sideways. Soon the entire room was full of cheery , bright sunlight. The room bearer brought me a flask full of my favourite brew- tea. Another half an hour and I was ready to move out of that gorgeous Guest House called the Observatory House.


The Observatory House (Guest House)

I decided to start my exploratory walk by moving around the Guest House itself. It is a beautiful double storied building with a chaste white exterior.. It has two lovely lawns- a bigger one in the front and a smaller but cuter one at the back. I noticed two small fireplaces made of bricks. I was informed that this lawn is used for the late evening get togethers at the end of the seminars. A low fire is burnt in these fire places and endless cups of tea and coffee punctuate the learned discussions that take place.


I then followed a group of tourists which was moving towards the main building of the Viceregal Lodge now rechristened  as the Rashtrapati Nivas. That was when I saw her for the first time and fell in love. No, it was not a “Love in Shimla” of the filmy type for which, alas, I am too old. It was the majestic building of the Institute with which I fell in love first, followed by the Institute itself. Built between 1884 to 1888, the then Viceregal Lodge was a home to the Viceroy Lord Dufferin followed by twelve Governor Generals. The building is surrounded by a lush green patch full of deodars and rhododendrons. The academics are left alone in this soothing atmosphere to charge their batteries and to ponder over important issues without any structured, rigid daily routine.


Then I was ushered into the library which is really the sanctum sanctorum of the Institute. There was complete silence there- a silence full of calmness and creative contemplation. There were endless rows of shelves full of books old and new. Suddenly I was reminded of Charles Lamb’s famous description of Oxford’s library, “What a place to be is an old library! It seems as if all the souls of all the writers that have bequeathed their labours… were reposing there… I seem to inhale learning, walking amid their foliage”. And very softly and respectfully I left the library not wanting to disturb either the erudite academicians lost in the world of books or the books themselves!


The academic activities at the Institute appear to be endorsing the pithy observations of Sir Francis Bacon that, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” I was explained that the learned scholars who come to the Institute read, discuss issues in seminars in a unique multi-disciplinary atmosphere and at the end pen down their viewpoints in the form of monographs.


Rear view of the Rashtrapati Nivas building.

I then left the building and wandered around the campus. There were surprises in store for me at almost every second step. I found myself face to face with a bewitching Green House. The sympathetic maali (gardener) caught my eye, understood my interest and very magnanimously offered to show me around. And then came the next surprise. It started snowing, first slightly and then very heavily. I ran towards the Guest House and was there in no time puffing and panting. The snowfall, the first of the season, turned out to be very heavy. The next morning when I woke up, there was a thick covering of one and a half feet of snow. The path to the Green House had got lost in the snow. Now I am eagerly waiting for the snow to melt so that I can go to the Green House and resume my love affair with the campus. But sadly the process of the melting of the snow is so slow that I am afraid that it might snow again in the meantime. I am consoling myself with the message of Shelley, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

 ( First published in The Sun Times, Bhubaneshwar, February 22, 1997)

Shimla backgrounder: Himachal tourism runs two hotels, The Peterhoff and Hotel Holiday Home (known popularly as Tripple H or 3H) in Shimla.

Photos, text & copyright K.J.S.Chatrath

IMPORTANT: This website does not sell any hotel rooms/air tickets/packages/insurance cover etc.  It is intended only for providing information to the Fifty+/younger travellers and sharing of travel experiences. The above information is being shared only for the convenience of the readers who are advised to double check the information and satisfy themselves before taking any decision.

I am happy to share with you about the starting of another website by me: 

Grave matters….matters of graves…graves and cemeteries….tombs and graves…cemeteries and graveyards….photos of gravestones from all over the world…inscriptions from all over the world…sad, inspirational and some with a sense humour… I look forward to receiving your encouragement and advice.

These photographs are also available without watermark and in high resolution. Please contact


6 Responses to “‘Love in Shimla’ by K.J.S.Chatrath”

  1. Puneet Sidhu says:

    It does have that effect on you, I agree. Can’t thank you enough for facilitating my close encounter with this spectacular place!

  2. sukhdev bedi says:

    An interesting write up. It rekindled memories of my visit to this building about 40 years back.

  3. vikas chaudhary says:

    Dear uncle,
    your write ups are fantastic and i simply love everything you write about Shimla. its very nostalgic. keep on writng. all the best.

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